“You’re going down there and you’re fighting for me. You’re fighting for your niece, Layla. You’re fighting for mom,” Larry Powell’s sister told him.
He has been in Louisville, Ky., for over two weeks to help in the fight for justice for Breonna Taylor. The 26-year-old emergency room technician died when police officers forcibly entered her apartment and, after a brief exchange with her and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired shots at her.
The call to arrest her killers has been echoed across internet and social media platforms, with people posting it on a daily basis and adding #BreonnaTaylor to their social media names.
She died March 13, 2020. August 13 marked five months since the day she was killed. That’s 153 days. 3,672 hours. 220,320 minutes.
Awareness and outrage over her death were sparked in conjunction with the global protests over the death of George Floyd, who died after a former Minneapolis, Minn., officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Her name has trended on Twitter, WNBA players wore jerseys in her honor, and protestors and have gathered in the city where she lost her life. Among those who have pressed for justice are an all-Black armed militia, which came to the city.
Outrage over Breonna’s death also led to BreonnaCon, a “multi-day engagement in Louisville to direct resources, talent and energy towards achieving justice” for her, according to Until Freedom, a social justice organization co-founded by Tamika Mallory, Mysonne Linen, Angelo Pinto and Linda Sarsour. The days of action were held Aug. 22-25.
Mr. Powell, an actor and activist out of Los Angeles, said the event would bring fuel to the fire and build momentum.
“When you make a real event around it and then people from all over the world are able to see it like yo, what is that? What is this? It adds energy to this moment,” he said. “It’s already hugely visible, but [it adds] even more visibility to this moment. And so it kind of makes change inevitable. It makes it like, ‘Y’all really ain’t gon’ do what needs to be done and what’s right? Really?’ To me, that’s how it’s going to help.”
The multi-day event included workshops, trainings, plenaries, women’s and men’s empowerment programs, a school supplies giveaway, a community barbecue called Bre-B-Q and a Faith Revival at Kingdom Fellowship Center.
Participants included Porsha Williams and Phaedra Parks from Real Housewives of Atlanta, Yandy Smith-Harris from Love & Hip-Hop New York and Gizelle Bryant from Real Housewives of Potomac.
BreonnaCon culminated in a demonstration to amplify the call for justice for Breonna. The event punctuates a “30-day occupation of Louisville by the activist group and will culminate in a direct action led by Until Freedom,” according to event organizers.
The city of Louisville has attempted a few steps in the right direction. In June, city officials passed Breonna’s Law, which would ban the use of no-knock warrants, and the Louisville Metro Police Department terminated former officer Brett Hankinson, one of three officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s killing.
But for Lerae Funderburg, a lawyer out of Atlanta who traveled to Kentucky for a few days to help the organizers with Until Freedom, that’s not enough. She was also in the city in July when 87 protesters were arrested after Until Freedom led a demonstration at Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s home.
The lawyer defined justice for Breonna as the officers involved being arrested and charged and getting rid of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and District Attorney Tom Wine.
Breonna’s Law should be in cities across the country, and there needs to be “consequences and repercussions for all officers across the board,” she said.
Mr. Powell wants to see the officers held accountable.
“If someone did something wrong, they need to be held accountable for it. That’s just the bottom line to me. And the fact that these power structures are seemingly protecting people is just wrong. I think that it speaks to so many other things, and it will keep people in poverty. It keeps people without the help they need,” he said. “Justice for Breonna will bring a new light where there has been darkness.”
“O,” Oprah Winfrey’s magazine, commissioned 26 billboards demanding the police involved in killing Breonna Taylor be arrested and charged. One of the billboards was recently vandalized with red paint dripping across Breonna’s face.
Ms. Funderburg said it’s important for Breonna Taylor to get justice as a Black woman. Black women have been at the bottom of the totem pole, hurt, pained, and yet built the United States up and are the creators of the universe, she said.
She commended Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, for attempting to protect her. When their apartment was invaded, he called 911 and as a legal gun owner defended Breonna and himself. He was initially arrested in the police invasion, but charges were later dropped.
“He was just a Black man protecting his queen … we don’t see enough of that,” she said. “I want for all Black men to be that way.”
Mr. Powell also noted that Black women have been at the bottom of the barrel for too long.
“Let’s get actual justice for Breonna Taylor, this Black sister who, y’all were in the wrong house and all that kind of stuff. But like, it’s also a symbol for, that’s justice for everybody,” he said. “That’s the beginning for liberation for all, through the liberation of Black lives.”